Here’s something I used to hear a lot: “What well-behaved kids you are!”

When we were younger, we heard this all the time, especially when the whole family went someplace together. It still occasionally comes up, usually when I bump into people who remember us from back then that just can’t help exclaiming “You were such well-behaved kids!”

Those comments are usually followed by statements like, “I don’t know how your mom does it!”

Neither do I, honestly. But I’ve watched her disciplining my siblings all my life, so I at least know some of the method behind the miracle.

A lot of it comes down to the idea of teamwork and cooperation we’re exposed to from the moment we can walk, talk and participate in jobs around the house. In a family our size, it’s absolutely necessary that we work together and, regardless of how often I’ve said this, I can’t stress it enough. There’s still plenty of slacking and heel-dragging around here, don’t get me wrong, but things do get done. They have to, and we know it.

Still, you’re correct in thinking there’s a great deal of disciplining that goes into maintaining order around the Clan household. We learn early on that disobedience is a bad idea and that Mom and Dad will catch you if you break the rules. But now that we’ve all grown out of the stage where a quick spanking is the best solution for a temper tantrum, Mom’s favorite method for keeping discipline is to hand out chores.

This is a highly effective method, and one that’s adaptable for transgressors of all ages. If you think I’m kidding about this, think again. 

Mom’s assigned chores, commonly known as “crabby chores” by the Clan, tend to be the kind of cleaning, tidying jobs that really ought to be done on a regular basis, but aren’t because we usually don’t have time for them. They’re jobs like brushing all the cobwebs down from high ceilings and corners or cleaning the air exchange vents in the bathrooms. Around here, if you don’t tow the line you could find yourself cleaning toilets and wiping toothpaste off all the sinks and mirrors in the house (we have four of them, in case you were wondering). Washing kitchen appliances is another big one. In fact, every so often Mom will announce that the fridge needs cleaning and that she’s on the lookout for people who need a crabby chore.

Of course, when she makes these announcements, you can be sure we all straighten up and are on our very best behavior, because no one wants to get landed with that job. The line will be towed for days, sometimes weeks. Usually Mom is still able to catch someone out, but there was the one time when she waited so long for an opportunity to assign a crabby chore that she actually had to clean the fridge herself.

Since then she’s stopped giving us so much forewarning when she has crabby chores to give out.